Smartphone sales have plummeted amid the Covid-19 pandemic, dropping 20.2% in the first quarter of 2020, according to research by Gartner.

This contrasts sharply to projections made by the research and advisory company in January, when it predicted an increase of 3% for 2020, compared to 2019.

The drop in smartphone sales to consumers is entirely the result of the coronavirus pandemic, and has resulted in the most severe slump in the history of the market.

This is in part due to the closure of factories, limiting supply, but is also the result of reduced consumer demand, as lockdowns and job insecurity reduce the numbers looking to upgrade.

“The coronavirus pandemic caused the global smartphone market to experience its worst decline ever,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner.

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“Most of the leading Chinese manufacturers and Apple were severely impacted by the temporary closures of their factories in China and reduced consumer spending due to the global shelter-in-place.”

Smartphone sales amid Covid-19: Huawei hit hardest

Notably, while the entire smartphone market has witnessed a severe slump in sales during Covid-19, different handset makers have felt the drop to a greater or lesser extent.

Samsung, the market leader worldwide, saw an above-average decline in growth, with sales dropping 22.7%. However, it only saw a small drop in market share, going from 19.1% in Q1 2019 to 18.5% in Q1 2020.

Gartner has attributed this to an “inefficient online channel” but only a limited presence in China, with Gupta saying that “the decline could have been much worse”.

Worst hit was Huawei, which saw its sales plummet by 27.3%, and its market share reduce from 15.6% to 14.2%. This resulted in it selling 42.5 million units fewer in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019, although coronavirus wasn’t the only reason for this fall; it’s embroilment in the US-China trade war has prevented it being able to ship with support for the Google Play store, significantly limiting consumer appeal.

“Huawei will have a challenging year,” said Gupta. “It has developed the Huawei Mobile Service (HMS) ecosystem, but with the lack of popular Google apps and Google Play store, Huawei is unlikely to attract new smartphone buyers in international markets.”

Apple gains market share amid sales drop

Apple, meanwhile, actually gained market share, rising from 11.9% to 13.7%, however it did see sales drop by 8.2% – the result of its dependence on Chinese manufacturing, according to Gartner.

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“Apple had a strong start to the year thanks to its new product line up that saw strong momentum globally. If Covid-19 did not happen, the vendor would have likely seen its iPhone sales reached record level in the quarter,” said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner.

“Apple’s ability to serve clients via its online stores and its production returning to near normal levels at the end of March helped recover some of the early positive momentum.”

Xiaomi was the only major handset maker to see a growth in sales, which rose 1.4%, while its market share increased from 7.3% to 8.0%.


Read more: Sanctions begin to bite as US raises stakes in Huawei dispute


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